Friday, October 26, 2007

Keeping pace

How to change without changing: keep it quiet.

Between an oil refinery and the sea, the monarch is building from scratch a graduate research institution that will have one of the 10 largest endowments in the world, worth more than $10 billion.

Its planners say men and women will study side by side in an enclave walled off from the rest of Saudi society, the country’s notorious religious police will be barred and all religious and ethnic groups will be welcome in a push for academic freedom and international collaboration sure to test the kingdom’s cultural and religious limits.

This undertaking is directly at odds with the kingdom’s religious establishment, which severely limits women’s rights and rejects coeducation and robust liberal inquiry as unthinkable...

The king has broken taboos, declaring that the Arabs have fallen critically behind much of the modern world in intellectual achievement and that his country depends too much on oil and not enough on creating wealth through innovation.

“There is a deep knowledge gap separating the Arab and Islamic nations from the process and progress of contemporary global civilization,” said Abdallah S. Jumah, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco. “We are no longer keeping pace with the advances of our era.”

That last is a bit of an understatement. I remain convinced that as long as "the Arab and Islamic nations" are not contributing anything the rest of us consider useful, then they will suffer, and they will share their suffering with us.

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Hazar Nesimi said...

I thought oil is still considered useful by you in the West, most useful indeed :-). I have low opinion of Saudi ability to excel in sciences somehow...

NoolaBeulah said...

That's the trouble. What makes oil valuable? Western technology. What finds, refines and distributes oil? Western technology. It is merely a (un)fortunate coincidence that the crude is found on Saudi territory, when they have done nothing to make it worth digging up.